Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, self publishing

22 authors collaborate to write book on how serving through AmeriCorps changes lives

ServeOne of the great things about the indie revolution is books that might not be of interest to traditional publishers can still find their way into the hands of readers and make an impact. Take for example the book, Serve, Reflect, Repeat. Full disclosure: This book was compiled by my oldest daughter who has served in AmeriCorps, but I did not think family connection was reason to disqualify this story from my blog.

I say that because I think this volume is an excellent example of another way a book can come to be. In this case, she did not write the manuscript herself, but instead engaged a network of people to submit chapters detailing their experiences. I believe you will find the book inspirational, but I also think you will find the answers to the questions I posed to her helpful as well.

What inspired you to write your book? AmeriCorps was such an important and transformational time in my life. I know other alumni felt the same way so I thought a collaborative book would showcase the power of national service as well as be an introduction to AmeriCorps for individuals considering pursuing national service as a path.

What was the most challenging thing about compiling stories from different writers? There were two chief challenges. The first was finding willing authors. This was a very grassroots effort; so I reached out to interested parties through social media outlets. While there was a lot of positive response, it took a concerted effort to actually get individuals to turn in a chapter. The second challenge was choosing what stories would be included in the book. There are so many amazing stories and it was difficult to narrow down the selections.

“The feeling of completing your book project is indescribable.”

What was most surprising to you as you went through the publishing process? Editing is tremendously challenging and takes significant effort and time, especially with a project like this. It was a very diverse group of writers from different regions, and with varying education levels, and backgrounds. It was important to create a cohesive voice while remaining authentic to each individual writing style.

What advice would you give to first time authors? Stick with it. The feeling of completing your book project is indescribable. This process was challenging for me, and significantly more time intensive than I initially anticipated, but it was worth it. During the writing, compiling and editing process I was also a full-time student and part-time employee. There were always excuses that I could have used to prevent me from working on the book. However, I set a deadline and was committed and see it through. I was purposeful in blocking out time to complete this project and I am confident others can as well.

What do you hope readers take away from this book? National service has the power to transform individuals, schools, neighborhoods, communities, regions, states, and the nation and we all have the capacity to serve and the responsibility as citizens to find the best way to help improve society. Everyone has something to offer to the world,

How did you settle on the title of your book? Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the title. One of the other authors, Nicole Vera, suggested it. All of the authors voted on potential titles, but this one was the winner because it is so accurately describes what service should entail. We should serve, reflect on our time–what we can do differently, how we can improve, and what we should be proud of–and then we should repeat. This should be the cycle throughout our lives.

“I was purposeful in blocking out time to complete this project and I am confident others can as well.”

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authors, book selling, Publishing, self publishing

Science says reading print books provides a number of pretty interesting benefits

Recently, someone forwarded me a link to an article, titled Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books, on a site called Mic.com, which I had seen before.

In this fascinating  article, Rachel Grate cites a number of recent studies that report the benefits of reading a paper book that e-readers don’t provide. She draws from a number of different studies that all seem to point to the same conclusion. Reading paper books help us in ways we may not have been aware.

I tried to find a way to summarize her work and just hit the highlights, but I found that task difficult. Her content and writing style are excellent. So rather than short change you, I have decided to provide the text of the article below. Or if you prefer, you can read the original article and the comments by clicking here.

Credit: New Dork Review of Books

Credit: New Dork Review of Books

From Mic.com and written by Rachel Grate

It’s no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. One study even found that elderly individuals who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their peers. But not all forms of reading are created equal.

The debate between paper books and e-readers has been vicious since the first Kindle came out in 2007. Most arguments have been about the sentimental versus the practical, between people who prefer how paper pages feel in their hands and people who argue for the practicality of e-readers. But now science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books.

Reading in print helps with comprehension. 

A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”

Our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page.

The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page. Mangen hypothesizes that the difference for Kindle readers “might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading.”

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader’s serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one’s sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.

Credit: Motivationgrid.com

Credit: Motivationgrid.com

Reading long sentences without links is a skill you need — but can lose if you don’t practice. 

Reading long, literary sentences sans links and distractions is actually a serious skill that you lose if you don’t use it. Before the Internet, the brain read in a linear fashion, taking advantage of sensory details to remember where key information was in the book by layout.

As we increasingly read on screens, our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning. A 2006 study found that people read on screens in an “F” pattern, reading the entire top line but then only scanning through the text along the left side of the page. This sort of nonlinear reading reduces comprehension and actually makes it more difficult to focus the next time you sit down with a longer piece of text.

Tufts University neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf worries that “the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing.” Individuals are increasingly finding it difficult to sit down and immerse themselves in a novel. As a result, some researchers and literature-lovers have started a “slow reading” movement, as a way to counteract their difficulty making it through a book.

Reading in a slow, focused, undistracted way is good for your brain.

Slow-reading advocates recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily reading away from the distractions of modern technology. By doing so, the brain can reengage with linear reading. The benefits of making slow reading a regular habit are numerous, reducing stress and improving your ability to concentrate.

Credit: telegraph.co.uk

Credit: telegraph.co.uk

Regular reading also increases empathy, especially when reading a print book. One study discovered that individuals who read an upsetting short story on an iPad were less empathetic and experienced less transportation and immersion than those who read on paper.

Reading an old-fashioned novel is also linked to improving sleep. When many of us spend our days in front of screens, it can be hard to signal to our body that it’s time to sleep. By reading a paper book about an hour before bed, your brain enters a new zone, distinct from that enacted by reading on an e-reader.

Three-quarters of Americans 18 and older report reading at least one book in the past year, a number which has fallen, and e-books currently make up between 15 to 20% of all book sales. In this increasingly Twitter- and TV-centric world, it’s the regular readers, the ones who take a break from technology to pick up a paper book, who have a serious advantage on the rest of us.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

My 2nd most popular post: The 7 key elements of a great book cover

One of the great things about analytics on a blog is they tell you what people are reading most and what search terms they use to find your blog.  My post popular blog post by far is The 5 Essential Elements of Every Good Story. However, the second most popular post is the one I am reposting below, The 7 key elements of a great book cover. Hopefully you will find this helpful and you don’t even have to search for it.

Along with an eye-catching design, this cover employs a great subhead to help the reader know the benefit of reading this book.

Along with an eye-catching design, this cover employs a great subhead to help the reader know the benefit of reading this book.

The 7 key elements of a great book cover

Do first impressions matter? Of course, they do. For your book, your cover will make the first impression on readers. It is your three-second introduction to the reading public. When readers are browsing the bookstore shelf or the internet,  your book cover needs to grab their attention, but also make a promise as to what readers will find on the pages inside.  So here are seven elements of cover design you should  give thought and attention to as you get ready to publish.

  1. Your title. Place yourself in the reader’s shoes when making your final decision for your book’s title. Will your title make sense to the reader? Is it easy to remember? When choosing your title make sure it conveys your message and fits the design you have in mind. As a writer, try not to get too caught up in creating a clever title, when a straightforward title will do. Creativity can sometimes interfere with clarity.
  2. The subtitle. If needed, elaborate on your book’s subject with a subtitle. A good subtitle provides additional information through a descriptive line which compliments your title. Include any searchable keywords that are not in your title  in your subtitle if appropriate.
  3. Cover design and layout. Your title should be legible at a glance and you should avoid small or faint text as well as busy backgrounds. Select a font or two for your text, staying away from decorative fonts that are hard to read. Choose a strong image that helps people remember your book and integrates with your title. A single image usually impacts more than multiple images. Remember your image should not overwhelm your title, so beware of overpowering your words with pictures. Above all, make sure all text is easy to read.
  4. Back cover or panel copy. This should be a short summary of your book that gives readers a preview or teaser for what to expect when they read it. It should not be about why your wrote the book or a table of contents. It should work like an ad to draw in potential readers.
  5. In this soon-to-be released book, the cover draws the reader in and hints as to the story of the book.

    In this soon-to-be released book, the cover draws the reader in and hints as to the story of the book.

    Endorsements and reviews. Endorsements and reviews help add to the credibility of your book. So if you have endorsements from influential people or reviews, think about including them on your back cover or jacket flap if you have a hard cover edition. If you have an endorsement from a well-known personality you may want to consider putting a mention on your front cover.

  6. The spine. Make it simple, easy to read, and viewable sideways. In most cases, you do not want to include your subtitle due to space limitations.
  7. Your author bio. Briefly state who you are and your most recent accomplishments. Try to keep your author description around three sentences and establish your credentials if you are writing a non-fiction book and your personality if you are writing a fiction book. Readers love to know things about the author. It helps them connect with the book in a different way. Use your author bio to help readers feel like they know something about you.

You have likely spent months and maybe even years working on your manuscript. Make sure you take the time to give your cover the attention it deserves. After all it is the first impression most readers will have of your book.

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Author Solutions, authors, Publishing, self publishing, writing

4 Paths to Publishing Speech Now Free to the Public at Los Angeles Valley College

Ad-ASLLC-FourPaths_Oct18On Saturday, October 18, I am going to be giving the keynote address at the Digital Author and Indie/Self Publishing Conference at Los Angeles Valley College.  While attendees will be paying to attend the conference, they have decided to open my 4 Paths to Publishing session up to the public who can attend free of charge. The talk will take place in Monarch Hall to accommodate the number of people they expect to attend. Tickets are required so they can gauge how many to expect. You can request them by clicking on this link.

If you are in the Los Angeles area or know someone who is interested in learning more about the publishing options available to authors today, do plan to attend or pass this on. I look forward to seeing you there.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, self publishing

Being blind since birth hasn’t stopped Craig McFarlane for doing anything including publishing a book.

         There can be many obstacles to publishing a book, but for Craig MacFarlane, being blind was not one of them. In his book, Craig MacFarlane Hasn’t Heard of You Either,  he tells his remarkable and inspirational story of how sightlessness  has not limited him in the least.Craig MacFarlane
 Blinded at two years of age as the result of an accident, Craig has gone on to become the the World’s Most Celebrated Totally Blind Athlete among his many achievements. He has also used  his athletic accomplishments  to establish himself in the “sighted” world and as the platform for an impressive 30 year career in the world of business.
        I think you will find this interview inspirational and motivational.

 

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Editing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

The Guardian newspaper in the UK suggests $6,000 needed to effectively self publish. Debate ensues.

Last week, Suzanne McGee, penned a feature  in the Money section of the Guardian, with the headline, You can try to be the next Hemingway — for $6,000 and the subhead, Self-publishing has made it possible to get your writing out in the world. But it hasn’t made it cheap.

In her article, she suggests based on her interviews with a number of self published authors, there are some critical elements you need to consider if you are going to self publish. Those include

  • An ISBN number
  • Editing
  • Cover Art
  • Paid reviews
  • Promotional print copies of your book

The GuardianShe suggested the total cost of the project would be around $6,000 with the two-thirds of that budget going to editing. Not surprising her article generated 80 comments and many opposing views.  Some were civil in their comments and some were rude.  Based on her response to the comments I think she was simply trying to point out that self-publishing is not and should not be considered a “free” opportunity as some might lead you to believe.

Certainly you can spend more or less than the amount she suggests, but those who were debating the number I think missed the most helpful points of the article.

  1. You are going to have to invest in editing to have a good book--I think this is the most important thing every self published author needs to remember and good editors are not cheap or free.
  2. You will have to invest time and money in promotion–She suggests paid reviews and many debate the value of those, but the point is you can’t just publish a book and wait for people to find it. You are going to have to spend some coin to garner interest and publicity.
  3. You will have to give things away before you see sales—In her article she suggests you need promotional copies of your book to hand out to media or others to get word of mouth about  your book started.  I think that is true, but there are other things you may want to consider as well.

The other great value to an article like this is it points out the need to have a simple way to evaluate the options out there for authors. I have written extensively about this topic and have a white paper title The Four Paths to Publishing, that layouts out the different opportunities available today for authors to get their books in the hands of readers.

If you would like to read the complete article in The Guardian, you can find it by clicking here.

 

 

 

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self publishing

What are some the next big things we will see for self-published authors?

This past weekend I was a panelist at the Writer’s Digest conference in a session that focused on new developments in indie or self-publishing. Panelists included Dan Dillon from Lulu and Amanda Barbara from Pubslush, which is a crowd funding platform for authors. Moderator was Phil Sexton from Writer’s Digest.

Jimmy Brass

Jimmy Brass is a graphic novel that was self-published through AuthorHouse in partnership with Golden Apple Comics

As usual, there was some lively dialogue and great questions from the audience and I always find the Writer’s Digest conference to be one of the best in the country. Being on the panel prompted me to think about what might be  some of the next big things we will see in Indie or self-publishing.

Self-published graphic novels will grow substantially

This past spring, we announced a partnership with Golden Apple comics to launch self publishing packages specifically tailored for graphic novel creators. About the same time, Amazon also announced a move into that space. Both are signs that graphic novel creators are going to be the next big group of content creators to take advantage of indie publishing.

Gorging Out cover

Gorging Out is a self-published novel that was recently optioned for film right.

Hollywood will produce a movie based on a self-published novel.

50 Shades of Grey will be in theaters shortly and while it started as a self-published novel, its meteoric success came once a traditional publisher, Random House, picked it up. I believe it won’t be long before you will see a film on the big screen that is developed from a self-published book. In fact, recently we announced another book that was optioned by Hollywood. Link to the release is here.  Stay tuned.

Subscriptions will not be as big a deal as the current bluster would lead you to believe.

If you pay attention to publishing news, subscription services are getting quite a bit of coverage. However, it is interesting to me that none of the news is around how many readers have signed up for the services. I think that is because consuming a book is a very different experience than consuming a song or a television show or movie. Pandora and Netflix do not require a significant commitment of time and much of what you get from their subscription services is disposable. A book is different. In the time it takes you to read a book, you could listen to one hundred songs or watch multiple movies. You can justify the value of a subscription because of the volume. I don’t think people will see the same value with books because they cannot consume them at the same rate.

I could be wrong and time will tell, but it will be interesting to watch.

Subscription services may lead to the resurgence of the serial.

While I don’t think book subscription services will get the traction of music and video services, I do think the format may fuel a resurgence of people writing serials and introducing a new chapter or what I call a micro-book each month. It has happened yet to any measure, but I think it will and may be one of the ancillary benefits of the new subscription services.

What do you think? Do you see any other big developments that I have missed? Use the comment section to let me know.

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